Seen around London

What?  London again?  Easy folks, just a few things.  Headed in to London briefly after my Cambridge interviews to pick up stuff from Baylor’s house that I left there and to meet up with a friend I made on the Arctic cruise.

Getting around London is easy due to all the excellent transportation options. Busses and underground work seamlessly with one card, and they run so frequently you hardly need to plan ahead, just know where you are going. They even have digital reader boards telling you when the next bus / train / whatever is going to show up to whisk you off to your final destination.

Walking around one day I ran across one of the boards that was in the throes of reconfiguring itself. Surprisingly it displayed the IP information for the network it was running on. Since it is blocking out the first three octets of the connection info, I’ve got to assume this is some sort of “security by obscurity” move (always a bad idea). I sincerely hope this is not on a publicly accessible network, even if you have to do a bit of tricky route-hacking. Danger, Will Robinson.

Hmm, what to do; dDos or man-in-the-middle attack? Either way: commuter horror.

I stayed at a hostel this time, which was near a handy underground station. It was the most cramped, packed-in room ever. Eight bunks crammed into a room the size of a long walk-in closet. However, it had two redeeming qualities:

  1. It’s built on top of a pub.
  2. My room had a balcony.

However, while they said “yes, of course, use the balcony all you want, enjoy”, they also put a sign on the door leading out to the balcony.


So, enjoy the balcony if you can either teleport or ninja your way up a sheer stone wall.  Regardless, there was a lovely picnic table out there where you could quaff a pint while watching the Thames.  Not bad.  However, weather in London during September can be rather… risky?  Got rained out frequently.  Still, sometimes the weather works out, as evidenced by this picture of a walk through a nearby park:

London: rain, grey, cold, basically Seattle of Europe? Some days it all works out.

Incidentally, while walking through that park, I came across the largest, strangest ducks I’ve ever seen. Just kinda hanging out. Sweet.

This man is trying to chat up a pelican. Seems legit.

However, one of the main goals here was to visit with someone I met on the arctic cruise. Since I’m in a habit of giving names to everyone, we’ll call her Physics.  So Physics learnt that I have never seen a rugby game, and since she plays rugby herself, intoned that it was imperative that I remedy this.  So I took advantage of having a local willing to show me the joys of this mysterious activity.

A hooligan’s game for gentlemen.

Turns out rugby, in contrast to it’s inevitable comparison, American Football, is super-easy to understand.

  • Your team has the ball: run to the other side of the field.
  • If someone gets in your way: move briskly through them, or:
  • toss the ball to someone else on your team, but it has to be a backwards pass.

If your team gets the ball across the line (called a try, which seems odd as it should be called “a success”) you get points.  If the ball is ever in contest about who owns it, you have a scrum.  This is where both teams do some elaborate, flattened, human-pyramid type configuration where they are all linked together shoving at each other in basically reverse-tug-of-war style, then the ball is thrown in the middle of them and the team that extracts it gets it.

So, that’s the basics.  Pretty easy.  Of course there’s more to it (kicking rules, positions, etc), but try explaining NFL rules to a foreigner.  You’ll find yourself quickly reduced to drawing X’s and O’s on a chalkboard, flipping through playbooks, explaining play clocks and offside rules and what the hell a tight end is supposed to do, other than be the butt (snicker) of many puerile comments.

Also: my impression of rugby players is that they would be these massive meat-headed, cauliflower-eared, two-brain-cell organisms mostly good for swilling beer and pushing against something with a lot of force.  Turns out rugby players are gentlemen, as are the fans.  This is in direct contrast to “football hooligans” (soccer hooligans to us yanks) which are infamous.  Physics explained to me that football is basically a gentlemanly sport for hooligans, whereas rugby is a hooligan sport for gentlemen.  Succinctly put.

So: rugby?  Good times.  Next: a surprise deviation to try some hiking in the alps…

Hey, you trippin or what?

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